Peak District: Lathkill Dale and Bradford Dale

27 October 2012

Although my last visit to the Peak District seems like only yesterday, I was somewhat startled to discover that it was five years ago that I explored Dovedale from near Ilam. So having planned a day's walking, when the weather forecast seem to put paid to an East Anglian walk, I headed northwest to the Peak District for another visit. I have a file of "future walks" planned on the computer, and I selected this one more on the basis of its length and relatively southerly location than anything else, but it proved to be a delightful walk.

After setting off from the car parking area, this is the view that greets George and me. Blue skies, green fields with sheep, and limestone walls. The first two of many, many stiles today will take us across the wall corner into the field on the right and then on towards the woodland.

The start of the walk is relatively level, but the views to the north show what most of today will be - limestone dales. We will be down there a little later. First we descended steeply into Cales Dale, a side-dale off the main Lathkill Dale. There were several groups of very noisy teenagers out hiking who we passed on our way down and at the bottom.

We then immediately started our ascent out of the dale. George is having a great time but his feet are already a very different colour.

Climbing out of Cales Dale

There was then a walk through a farm and along some very muddy tracks before we began to descend again, this time heading for the upper reaches of Lathkill Dale.

In the dale, looking up towards Monyash where many will start or end this walk...

...and down, the direction we are going to go.

Initially the way is narrow and the path twisty

But the way starts to open out. With the sun low in the sky and the route along the bottom of the valley, we switched from sunshine to deep shade repeatedly as the valley twisted.

Dampness started to build up next to the path, and soon there was a stream there, the infant River Lathkill

The river grew in size rapidly, no doubt fed by underground rivers coming through the limestone

The walk wasn't heaving with people, but there were quite a lot about, and there were people in front or behind me much of the time.

There were quite a few waterfalls, most of them seemingly manmade weirs - the natural dale has been extensively used by man for milling and mining among other things.

The close proximity of the path and the river made me worry that we might have to content with a flooded path at some point, but a couple of very well-trodden diversions saw us safely around the few wet sections.

Another weir on the right, with a millstone on the right

Initially I thought this was the remains of a mill, but as I got closer, those two walls were joined by others in a line. I immediately thought of a railway viaduct, though there was no evidence on my map. When I returned home, another map had "Mine aqueduct (rems of)".

Past the little bridge below Over Haddon, the river widens further, deepened and presumably widened too by a series of weirs - you can just see a series of control structures on three of the weirs.

From below, several of the weirs

The dale now starts to open up further, losing the steep right-hand (southern) side as we approach Conksbury Bridge. There we crossed and walked across farmland along the other bank.

At Alport, we crossed the road. Here the River Lathkill is constrained into what is clearly not its original course as it runs above the land and the village, on its way to meet the River Bradford.

We turn right at the watersmeet to follow the Bradford upriver

Past the road bridge in Bradford, there is a weir and an area designated for swimming, but we didn't fancy it today.

At Youlgreave, George has found the way across the River Bradford, and our way lies through that gate and then along the river.

This river, like the Lathkill, has a series of weirs, perhaps to improve the fishing as they don't seem quite right for a series of mills.

A stone wall crosses the river behind George, and in the distance is a bridge which we will take, leaving the rivers behind for today and heading steeply uphill, stopping to chat with a chap who we'd passed a couple of hours earlier.

As we cross the field of sheep, George is impeccably behaved as always, but the sheep gradually retreat: if there are a few sheep, they will often let us walk very close by, as happened several times earlier today, but if there are lots of sheep as here then it only takes one nervous one to trigger all of them to move.

We therefore inadvertently herded all the sheep towards the top of the field. Once we had passed them and were heading for the gate, they all turned and started to follow us

From the top of the field, a look across some glorious countryside. It was a short walk up a muddy lane back to the car.

A great walk in good weather - a long way to come but a lot better than walking in the rain in Suffolk or Norfolk

Total distance 15.9 km and about 300 metres of ascent in 4 hours 45 mins


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Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson